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Frank Rijkaard vs. Pep Guardiola: Deco vs. Xavi

This next comparison is between the Brazilian-born playmaker Deco, who despite looking constantly worried, was rather good, and the greatest Spanish midfielder of all time, Xavi.

If I’d compare Deco to last campaign’s Xavi, my job would’ve been fairly easy as last season Xavi was simply magnificent. He finished the season with 23 assists and was finally recognized as one of the best in the world, finishing 3rd in the Ballon D’Or.

However, this comparison involves the Xavi of this season, who is still playing at a high level, but perhaps not quite as stellar as last season. Nevertheless, his performances have been very solid, and he has kept a few special performances for the unfortunate teams.

One of those unfortunate teams to receive a master-class form Xavi is, Real Madrid. In El Humiliació, Xavi was back to his imperious best, scoring the first and playing countless defense splitting passes.

So, while his stats have not been as impressive (only 3 goals and 10 assists in 29 games) he is still a vital cog in the machine known as the Blaugrana.

Then again, could we put this drop down to Lionel Messi? As Manuel has correctly observed, La Pulga is playing at a completely different level, to any player, teammates and opponents alike. Not only is he scoring goals for fun, but also creating them too.

Manuel remarked that Messi has already racked up 18 assists to his name this season. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s a similar number to what Xavi would usually get…

Anyway, back to the comparison. Under Frank Rijkaard, Deco was the player who brought balance to a side stacked with attacking players such as Eto’o, Ronaldinho, Giuly, Larsson, Iniesta and Messi. It may be an odd description but he was Rijkaard’s Xavi. As one pundit put it Deco is cocky and arrogant but world-class nonetheless.

"Deco is the barometer of our season, when he is in form the quality of the game rises, when he is not so good the team as a whole performs less well." – Frank Rijkaard

Despite this, he still managed to produce 6 goals and 4 assists in 44 games in the 2005/06 Champions League winning season.

He was a vital member of the uber-attacking side and the stats above reflect that. However, he isn’t as good a passer as Xavi (who is?) and was particularly averse to tracking back.

While Xavi covers the most distance of any Blaugrana player in any game, Deco took the more laidback approach to team play. So, it would be safe to assume that it was one of the reasons why Guardiola showed him the door upon arrival.

No doubt it upset some people; Messi said that when Deco talked, everyone listened, but clearly his departure has not affected him too bad!

It must also be said that Xavi would have played if he was fit in the 2005/06 season, whereas no such claims can be made for Deco getting into Guardiola’s record breaking side.

Winner: Xavi

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